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A Tale of Two Kings
Bonnie Davidson | Photo: Courtesy Images | December 9, 2013
Celebrity chef Marc Murphy joins forces with nightlife impresario Scott Gerber at Kingside, the high-end yet relaxed eatery giving 57th street a dose of downtown cool.
At 6:30pm on a recent Tuesday evening, barely two-and-a-half weeks after Kingside opened its doors for the first time, the bright and beautiful Midtown space in the sleek new Viceroy Hotel near Carnegie Hall was buzzing like it was midnight in the Meatpacking District. In the front bar room, a business-casual crowd sipped barrel-aged Negronis, small-batch spirits and Brooklyn beers, and nibbled crispy baby artichokes and Serrano ham on focaccia. The decibel level was a little lower, but the excitement level remained the same in the expansive, brasserie-style dining room designed by Roman and Williams with white-tiled walls and black-and-white chessboard floor. Every caramel-colored booth was filled, every table taken, every stool at the chef’s counter occupied by diners hankering to experience chef/owner Marc Murphy’s high-end yet accessible New American comfort food and his partner Scott Gerber’s latest luxury-hotel bar hotspot.
“We saw how the area was developing—it seemed to be very, very, very expensive condos and uberwealthy people—and we wanted to create a place that Marc and I would like to hang out at. Casual, approachable, with a bit of a downtown feel and the kind of food you can eat two or three times a week, or come in after work or late-night for a drink,” says Gerber, CEO of nightlife and hospitality company Gerber Group, whose portfolio of iconic venues also includes Living Room in the W New York Times Square and Stone Rose Lounge in the Time Warner Center.
“Both Scott and I have had a fair amount of successes in this beautiful city, and combining forces has definitely helped attract attention to Kingside. I guess people know and like what we do,” notes Murphy, the humble toque behind beloved restaurants Landmarc (Tribeca and Time Warner Center) and Ditch Plains (West Village and Upper West Side), as well as judge on Food Network’s Chopped. “We already have regulars. One couple came in on Saturday for breakfast and dinner. The next day, they were here with their newspapers, having Sunday brunch. They said, ‘We live across the street and we don’t like to cook, so we’ll be here a lot.’ That’s really gratifying.”
About a year ago, Gerber approached Murphy and asked if he’d like to partner in the new venture. “The most important thing for me is how you get along with somebody on a gut level, and we get along very well,” says Gerber. “Marc really cares about what he’s doing. He shows up. He’s not the kind of celebrity chef who walks around saying hello to people, whose apron isn’t dirty. He’s a regular guy who likes to cook great food.” The menu, designed to reflect Murphy’s international childhood (as a boy he lived in Milan; Paris; Villefranche; Washington, D.C.; Rome; and Genoa) and love of travel, features crowd-pleasers like escargot in bone marrow and garlic butter, grilled octopus with chorizo and papas bravas, a killer braised pork shank, and the signature burger topped with white cheddar, soppressata and giardiniera relish.
The collaboration, both parties agree, has been extremely smooth. “It’s a real team effort,” says Murphy. “We’re both in the service industry, so we’re both doing everything.” The biggest challenge, adds Gerber, was selecting a name for the restaurant. “We were going back and forth, trying everything—a combination of our kids’ and grandparents’ names, old New York names, people who lived in the building before it was torn down... It was nuts. Then while my wife was working out, she realized the floor sort of looks like a chessboard. So we went through all of these chess-related words and finally came up with Kingside,” the side of the board closest to the king’s opening position. “Now we can’t imagine it being called anything else.”